EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 28 (UPI) -- The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim misplaced their previous form in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals and need to find it in a hurry if they are to compete against the New Jersey Devils.
Anaheim swept the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in the first round, but managed just one shot on goal on each of its two power-play chances in the first period during Tuesday night's Game 1 loss.
The Ducks defeated the top-seeded Dallas Stars in the Western Conference semifinals only to allow 15 shots in the second period alone against the Devils.
And they solved Jacques Lemaire and the Minnesota Wild's defensive system in four straight games to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, but in their first game failed to score a goal.
When it comes to excuses, the Ducks will not allow the fact that they had 10 days off to be one of them.
"That's no excuse. We were very much ready to play," said winger Steve Thomas, who made his first Finals appearance after 19 NHL seasons. "We'd done all the work necessary to prepare for this team and we felt real good going in. It just happened that we got out there and it just didn't happen for us. But you learn from these type of things."
"The time off had nothing to do with the defeat," added goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who remains a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite. "I thought they played better than we did. That's all it was."
The second game will be held in East Rutherford Thursday night.
New Jersey is making its third Stanley Cup Finals appearance in the last four seasons while the Ducks have just five players who have reached the Finals.
After former Devil Petr Sykora's slap shot from just above the left faceoff circle rang off the right goalpost 4 1/2 minutes into the contest, things seemed to slip away from the team that thrives on speed and good puck management. The Ducks showed little of either in the final 55 1/2 minutes.
Anaheim had virtually no success completing passes or creating rushes into the attacking zone. Instead, they turned over the puck repeatedly and allowed several odd-man chances against Giguere.
"They had some great opportunities, a lot of odd-man rushes," defenseman Keith Carney said. "We haven't given up too many of those during the playoffs. You can't do that against a great team. They'll make you pay sooner or later."
"We moved the puck very poorly," Kariya said. "We turned the puck over and gave them odd-man rushes. It's tough to play the game when you're backchecking two on ones."
Martin Brodeur posted perhaps the easiest of his 18 career postseason blankings. He turned aside all 16 shots, many of them harmless.
"There are no excuses to not show up," Giguere said. "I mean, this is the biggest series of our life. Nobody knows when is the next time we're going to be in the Finals. We need to show up."